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Granada is one of Spain’s most historically rich cities. Although many of the things to do in Granada revolve around palaces, gardens, baths, churches, monasteries and ancient monarchs’ homes, Granada isn’t all history. There are also superb tapas bars to discover, beautiful natural surroundings to enjoy, and plenty of fun to be had. What you do in Granada totally depends on your preferences! Here we list our picks of the top 10 things to do in this spectacular city.
The most famous Granada attraction, Alhambra is also the most visited monument in all of Spain. The original fortress, built in 889 A.D and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been through many rises, falls, renovations, and expansions over the centuries. A stunning reflection of the Islamic influence and Moorish culture that was present during the Nasrid Dynasty, the Alhambra is considered to be the best and most beautiful Islamic buildings in all of Europe. A citadel, multiple palaces, and museums, all found inside the walls of this expansive monument, keeps the visitors occupied. The fantastically whimsical Generalife gardens — complete with pools, patios, fountains, plants, and flowers — complete the monument.
- Good to know: The Alhambra sometimes receives up to 6,000 visitors per day, and tickets can sell out. It’s suggested to book tickets in advance via phone or internet. Same day tickets cannot be bought at the ticket office. General admission ticket costs around USD 18*.
- Suggested tour: Granada with Alhambra Gardens from Malaga
Take a break from all the historic stuff (as fascinating as it all is) and admire the gorgeous gifts from Mother Nature. Granada has been blessed with an idyllic location in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The 320-acre Sierra Nevada National Park is the largest in Spain and home to one of the tallest mountains in the country, Mount Mulhacén.
In winter, visitors can hit the slopes at the Sierra Nevada Ski Resort. In summer, the ski chairlifts and gondolas are used to transport people to the top of some of the park’s highest peaks to access the scenic hiking trails.
- Good to know: Entrance into the park and access to the trails are free, however there is a fee to ride the chairlift.
- Recommended hiking trail: The 9.6km long Los Cahorros Gorge route.
- Suggested tour: Sierra Nevada & Granada
Catholic monarchs Isabel I de Castilla and Fernando II de Aragón ordered construction of the the Capilla Real, also known as the Royal Chapel, in the early 16th century to serve as a final resting place for themselves and their heirs. The elaborate tomb is a wonderful example of Gothic-style architecture. Inside, visitors can view the elaborate marble tombs, although these are just for aesthetic purposes — the monarchs are actually buried in simple metal boxes which lie in the crypt below.
- Good to know: Admission costs USD 6*, and children below 12 have free entry. Ticket purchase comes with free audio guide. The attraction is open Monday – Saturday from 10:15 to 18:30 and Sunday from 11:00 to 18:30.
The Albayzin neighborhood holds many of Granada’s ancient secrets. Just wandering around this district is like taking a step back in time. Albayzin, also referred to as Albaicín, is the old Arab Quarter within Granada but it feels like another country entirely. This neighborhood is one of the best examples of Moorish architecture thanks to the strong Muslim influence that once thrived here. The whole district was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, preserving its charm and authenticity.
- Good to know: Check out the old churches, the vibrant main square of Plaza Larga, and the quaint restaurants and bars for some excellent food and drink.
This famous square, sitting in the Albaicín neighborhood, offers the best view over of the Alhambra. The hilltop location in the Old Arab quarter provides uninterrupted views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site below and the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and all of the glorious green foothills which surround it.
Gorgeous views aside, the square itself is a worthy sight. The lively and exciting Plaza de San Nicolas is decorated with cobblestones, whitewashed churches, and vendors selling their homemade or home-grown goods.
- Good to know: Visit at night when the square is all lit up. It’s a great time to kick back with a drink or grab dinner in a fun and spirited atmosphere.
The historical center is another gem that borders the Albaicín neighborhood. Visitors will find many interesting buildings within the tightly wound streets. However, the highlights are Basilica de San Juan de Dios, the Cathedral and Royal Chapel (mentioned above) and the Saint Jerome Monastery.
The Basilica de San Juan de Dios is considered to be one of the most important baroque temples in Spain. Its interior is truly magical and the top to bottom golden patio is stunning. The temple also contains the urn of Saint John of the Gods. The Saint Jerome Monastery, built in the 16th-century, reflects a Renaissance-style architecture.
- Good to know: The nearby Alcaiceria Market is a great place for shopping. The once-bazaar-turned-market has plenty of souvenirs and authentic Spanish goods.
These impressively well-preserved ancient Arab baths are located just a jump away from the famed Alhambra. Visitors can walk or bike the 1 km to the 11th-century baths. The baths were declared a National Monument in 1918 and are the oldest and best-preserved Arab baths in Spain. A traditional communal space for the locals back then, you will be in awe of its sheer size and design. While here, soak in the atmosphere and revisit the days gone by.
- Good to know: Admission is free! Hours of operation depend on the season. Check out the opening times before heading for the attraction.
Sacromonte is another historic neighborhood that offers some incredible views of the natural beauty that surround it. Visitors can enjoy views of the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountains, the Darro River, and the Valparaíso Valley in which the neighborhood is located.
One of the most famous tourist attractions are the hillside caves, officially called Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte. Once ancient living quarters for the Arabs and gypsies, the caves are now the location of the town’s most unique museum. Visitors can walk through the space, learn the history, and experience the primitive lifestyle of its former inhabitants.
- Good to know: Sacromonte is located very close to the other tourist sites of Alhambra and Albayzin. You can find many shuttle bus services that will take you to all the attractions around.
The traditional flamenco dance originates from the Andalusia province of which Granada is a district, and has since been influenced over the centuries by Arab, Jewish and Christian cultures. It includes singing, guitar playing, clapping, and finger snapping.
One of the most unique ways to enjoy a Flamenco show is inside an authentic carved out cave-turned-restaurant. Check out Cueva Los Tarantos for a one of a kind dinner and show.
- Good to know: 1-hour Flamenco dance classes are available right in town! Conducted in English, participants learn the basic steps and the clapping technique, known as palmas. Expect to pay around USD 12* per person.
Check out these amazing Flamenco tours in different cities of Spain
What better way to satisfy a hungry stomach than with tapas — FREE tapas! That’s right, many of the tapas bars in Granada hook their customers up with a free tapa when a drink is ordered. Luckily for visitors, Granada is one of the only place in Spain that still serves complimentary tapas, so take advantage! It’s a fun and cheap way to sample the local cuisine and to try as many tapas as possible.
- Good to know: The neighborhood of Realejo, in the Old Jewish Quarter in the middle of Granada, contains the best and most authentic tapas bars in the city.
Granada is undoubtedly an exciting place for history buffs, however there’s plenty for those who’d rather spend their time doing something different. Of course, Granada’s historical sites are one of its main attractions. However, there’s markets for the shoppers, authentic bars and restaurants for the foodies, and the National Park for the nature enthusiasts. When it comes to what to do in Granada, visitors will not have to look very hard!
Note: Prices are as of March 2018.